Prostate cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye discusses symptoms

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A growing number of people are surviving cancer owing to effective treatments, but the condition cannot yet be cured. The stage at which the disease is detected therefore greatly affects one’s chances of receiving curative care. Unfortunately, however, symptoms aren’t always clear cut. One telltale sign that the disease is growing in the head could surprisingly be signalled in the feet.

The impact of cancer on society has been colossal, with millions succumbing to the killer each year.

But the pandemic is feared to have exacerbated the issue further by overstretching medical services and causing severe referral delays.

Experts have warned this could see thousands of cancer cases detected in advanced stages when the disease is likely to have spread to neighbouring organs in the body.

Campaigns have now been launched to prevent this from happening, and part of the efforts involve raising awareness of symptoms.

READ MORE: Cancer: The drink that may slash the risk of dying from cancer in half – even for smokers

The disease is caused by cells that acquire the ability to multiply in a rapid and uncontrolled fashion, forming lumps of tissue called tumours.

This is why tumours spotted the body and then spread to the brain and spinal cord through metastases.

At this stage, cancer becomes harder to treat because it can no longer be localised.

But symptoms of cancer do not always offer blatant clues as to which organ is diseased.

Tumours that press against the brain and spinal cord, for example, may sometimes cause symptoms in the feet.

Because the brain controls feelings in the body, a tumour that presses against it could lead to numbness and tingling in the body’s extremities.

Monika Wassermann, MD at oliolusso, explained: “Numbness in your feet or toes can be a symptom of a tumour pressing on the brain or spinal cord.

“The brain is responsible for all sensory feelings in the body. It’s interconnected to send sensory receptors via the spinal cord and body nerves.

“All signals in the body are rooted in the spinal cord and processed in the brain. [So] a brain or spinal cord tumour can interfere with the smooth communication of body signals as it blocks the channel for signal reception.”

The site of the tingling and numbness will usually reflect the region of the brain in contact with the tumour.

But where the tumour is located may also affect the severity of symptoms, explained Miss Wassermann.

The expert added: “The intensity of the numbness depends on the tumour’s location in the spinal cord or brain.”

It should be noted that tingling and numbness in the extremities is a symptom shared by a host of conditions, and may not necessarily be indicative of cancer.

Other conditions that cause these symptoms include diabetes and an array of vitamin deficiencies.

Classic cancer symptoms include unexplained weight loss and fatigue, but symptoms differ greatly from case to case.

When cancer affects the brain or spinal cord, individuals may experience difficulty thinking, loss of balance and vision changes.

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